The Warrior Mind: Developing Mental Toughness in Sports
By Ani Karina Sarabia de Leon
Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve– Napoleon Hill
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra- ITU New Plymouth Race Video
Nothing is so common as unsuccessful people with talent. All they lack is determination- Nick Bolletieri
What makes a great athlete? Is it skill and technique? Endurance and stamina? Speed and strength? When we train, we think about these things, and inside this magazine alone, you will find numerous articles which will help you develop these. With these important components present and working well together, surely this will easily translate to success in your chosen sport, right? Well, you need one more key ingredient. You need mental strength.
Oh dear, you say, that’s it for me then, because I’m just not that type of person. Good news—you don’t have to be a navy seal to possess this quality. You can train your mind to get into shape just like your body. Here’s how.
1. Have Intrinsic Motivation.
Sports psychologists say that mentally tough athletes typically exhibit “intrinsic motivation.” These people don’t need to be told what to do; they will go ahead and do it on their own. Find that fuel that will fan your inner fire, everyone has something different and personal.
2. Get into “The Zone.”
You’ve heard so much about this particular “zone” that athletes get into when they’re performing that it seems cliché to write about it. But it’s real and present in the world’s top players. When everybody else is panicking and buckling under pressure, it is extremely important to stay calm and focus on the job at hand.
3. Stay Positive.
Eliminate all your doubts and self-blocks. The number one hurdle to success that most people have is caused by all the negativity clouding their brains. Replace all these with positive and hopeful thoughts, and believe in them.
4. Practice Good Self-Talk.
Having a coach is crucial, but the person you are with all of the time is yourself. Say things to yourself such as, ”you are going to do so well, and it’s gonna be an excellent day for you,” or if you make a mistake, instead of kicking yourself about it, say something like,” that’s okay, no big deal, you’re going to recover and make a good comeback from that.” It takes practice, but when the going gets rough, this tool is invaluable.
Joe Stankowski, a former powerlifting and strongman competitor, once said, “your set should be mentally done.” Imagine each step that you will need to take, the surroundings, the smell, what you will be wearing, how you will feel and look upon creating your movements, and rehearse them in your mind. “Because it’s already been done in your mind,” says Stankowski, “all you have to do is repeat it with your body.”
Just like a dirty engine that needs to be overhauled, the brain needs to detoxify and let go of all the junk inside it for it to be functioning properly. Meditation is a technique which has been employed by many successful people for thousands of years to do just that. It fortifies your mental well-being, enhances mental clarity, reduces stress, and generally relaxes you.
7. Learn to deal with uncomfortable situations.
Get real; you can’t expect to achieve magnificent results by sitting in front of the TV. You know you gotta deal with some challenges and sweat it out. Once you’ve mastered the ability to troubleshoot and practice critical thinking, you will find that you can face a good number of difficult situations head-on.
8. Always be prepared.
Be a planner. And to go even further than that, if your plan doesn’t fall through, have a back-up plan. More than anything, if you are armed with good planning and preparation, then you will have peace of mind come competition day.
9. Don’t be afraid of failure.
And finally, after all of the above, the best athletes don’t overthink everything. They just do it, like the famous ad says, and they have no fear when they do (another ad). I mean, what’s the worst thing that could happen? And if it does happen, is that going to be so bad? So aim high, believe in yourself, and get back up if you fall. Chances are, you’ll be a much better person for it.